Welcome! (See important new information in "News Updates" below)
Ontario's Trumpeter Swans have fought their way back from the brink of extinction but now a marina development project in Burlington, Ontario is threatening the wintering grounds for 200 of these magnificent birds 1/5 of the Provincial population.
The building of a 400m permanent wave break and the addition of 340 permanent boat slips may result in many negative impacts including: causing the harbour to freeze for long periods which would be deadly for the swans; reducing space for the swans; restricting their flight path; damaging the aquatic vegetation they feed on and deteriorating the water quality.
The harbour area is rented by the city of Burlington from the City of Hamilton. The LaSalle Park Marina Association is a privately-run entity that has a joint venture partnership agreement with the City of Burlington. Ultimately, it will be up to Burlington's City Council to decide whether this project goes ahead.
Area groups and citizens have joined together to keep track of this proposed development, raise concerns about the project with City Council and the Ministry of the Environment and raise awareness among citizens.
The Trumpeter Swan Coalition is committed to ensuring that no harm comes to this species of special concern that has made Burlington their home. We would like you to join us.
To find out more, please contact Bev at 905-562-3819 or email join the Trumpeter Swan Coalition on Facebook or explore this website.
These magnificent birds have fought back from the brink of extinction and deserve our protection. Please connect with us to see how you can help. Thank you!
Update on Breakwall and Marina Expansion.
Dear Friends of the Trumpeter Swan Coalition:
The Council of the city Burlington voted to take $4 million out of Burlington's Hydro Reserve Fund to pay for a new, permanently anchored floating break wall. There is no requirement to make the 110 members of the Lasalle Park Marina Association pay it back. It's a gift.
At least it's a floating break wall not a rock wall and it's $10 million less in cost.
While there will be no marina expansion, the permanently anchored break wall will allow the floating docks to remain in the water year round, taking away harbour spcae from wilflife.
The Trumpeter Swan Coalition has asked for two concessions: 1). that the city would allow a winter feeding program should the harbour ice over for extended periods of time to be arrnged by, and at the expense of the Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group and 2). that better signage be erected at Lasalle Park to provide information about the Trumpeter Swans and to discourage feeding of wildlife.
April 17 2018
Dear Friends of the Trumpeter Swan Coalition:
We are edging closer to victory in preserving the Trumpeter Swan habitat at Lasalle Park.
Last week we received a notice from the CAO of the City of Burlington advising us that staff are bringing a report to Council on Thursday, May 10 at 1 p.m. in Council Chambers that will ask Council if the City wants to continue to provide marina services at Lasalle Park. If it doesn’t, staff will assist in relocating the Lasalle Pak Marina Association members moorage to Hamilton or other marinas. If it does, then staff recommend the city build a floating breakwall at the cost of about $4 million.
The key thing is there is no option in the recommendations about building a permanent $14 million breakwall or about expanding the marina.
The report validates many of the things we have been presenting to Council all along. For instance:
1. The projections for increased boat slip capacity, as outlined in the badly-flawed Marina Capacity study, are wrong.
2. Many new marinas and slips have been built in the area.
3. The LMPA can’t fund the expansion/breakwall and there are no Federal or Provincial grants available.
4. That funding the building of the expansion/breakwall, as desired by the LPMA, would result in a municipal subsidy of $127,000 per LPMA member — many of whom are not Burlington residents.
The City of Burlington has already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money on this failed initiative that nobody but the 110 members of the LPMA seemed to want and which nature lovers, photographers, Trumpeter swan fans and innumerable others vehemently opposed.
We have attached the report for you to read for yourselves. The Trumpeter Swan Coalition will be in Council Chambers on the 10th. We would be very pleased if you could join us. We believe the sensible option is to wind down marina operations at Lasalle but this Council has proven time and time again, to be immutable to sense and facts. We hope that finally, with the CAO telling them what we have been telling them all along, they will listen.
We’ll let you know what happens.
P.S. Councillor Marianne Meed-Ward has been the only Councillor who listened to the facts and voted against continuing to push the expansion/breakwall project forward. We understand she will be running for Mayor in the October 22nd municipal elections. We wish her well.
P.S.S. Councillor Taylor also voted against the project at the last meeting because he realized it didn’t make any financial sense.
All the best,
The Trumpeter Swan Coalition Team
Burlington Council Ignores Risks Outlined In Financial Review
In the Fall of 2017, City of Burlington staff presented a financial review of the Lasalle Park Marina Association’s business case called the Grant Thorton report. It was came before Burlington’s Committee of the Whole of on Tuesday, October 3 2017. We hoped it would put a nail in the coffin of this project. Unfortunately, it seems like most members of Council read a completely different report. Only Councillors Marianne Meed-Ward and John Taylor voted against the motion to have staff come back to Council with a plan as to how the breakwall and marina expansion could proceed. This is despite the fact that the report noted:
· The project as proposed would cost more than $14 million though the exact cost aren’t known as all the required engineering studies have not been done. The total has already doubled from when the project was first suggested.
· Burlington would not own the project if completed. It would belong to the Hamilton Port Authority (HPA).
· Lasalle Park is not owned by Burlington. It’s owned by Hamilton and the lease runs out in 2022. The water lots for the marina are also leased by the City of Burlington. That lease runs out in 2020.
· Because the city wouldn’t own the project, it would be highly unlikely any level of government would give them a loan unless the HPA was involved as a guarantor.
· The LPMA would require a loan of $4.67 million with a 25-year (!) payback period and the rest of the project would have to be funded by Provincial or Federal governments (ie. taxpayers paying for a small group of boaters for the improve facilities of a private club).
· The report also said: “traditional, alternative and private lending may not be available due to the size of the project and the fact that there will be insufficient future cash flow to service a $14 million loan.”
· If Burlington gets money for this project from higher levels of government, they are unlikely to fund other critical infrastructure needs of the city that have already been identified and prioritized by Council.
· The marina serves, and would continue to serve, mostly people who are not from Burlington.
· Boater occupancy would have to grow by 70% to 90% for the LPMA to pay back the loan.
· The LPMA couldn’t meet the 10% required by the Town’s Joint Venture Project.
And despite all this, as previously mentioned, your mayor and the majority of Burlington’s Council ordered staff to find a way forward. It’s simply unbelievable.
Folks, this is an election year — municipal elections are October 22nd 2018. If you elect the same characters you will get the same result. In recent months, several citizens groups have formed to fight the decisions being made in your city hall and to get them to take citizens’ concerns seriously. I urge you to raise your voices, find and support good candidates, and vote for change in the next municipal election.
Hamilton Refuses To Sell Lasalle Park To Burlington
People have asked what impact Hamilton’s refusal to sell Lasalle Park to Burlington will have on the Trumpeter Swans and the proposed Lasalle Park Marina Association’s plans to build a 400-metre permanent break wall and marina expansion.
In my opinion, it stalls the plan because the Lasalle Park Marina Association cannot afford to build their project. They need public money to do it. That means borrowing from the City of Burlington ($14 million for the benefit of a small number of boaters) or getting infrastructure money from the federal or provincial governments (which could be much better used on Burlington projects that would benefit all citizens). When Burlington doesn't own the land, it’s unlikely that anyone would give them money for this project and it would be very hard for Council to explain why the City of Burlington would loan this kind of money, at their own risk, for a project on an area that Hamilton could reclaim at any time.
Read about it at: http://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/7075755
Council Finally Begins Process of Due Diligence
On Lasalle Park Marina Expansion and Breakwall
The Lasalle Park Marina’s Association’s business case has proved to be their downfall. On October 3, 2016, Burlington Council was forced to act on the best advice of the City’s Chief Administration Officer, James Ridge, who, on reviewing his finance staff’s report on the LPMA business case bolstered their conclusions with his own report. Basically, Council hit the reset button on the entire project.
The LPMA will continue to manage the marina, but they are no longer leading a marina expansion project. The City now has the responsibility to determine if a marina should continue to operate at Lasalle and, if so, what infrastructure will be needed there. See the Council's decision below.
I have posted the delegation I made on behalf of the Trumpeter Swan Coalition below the excerpt's from Ridge's report below. We would like to thank Gloria Reid from BurlingtonGreen who also made a presentation to the committee. As well, we would also like to thank Councillor Meed-Ward, who has been the only member of Council to ask the LPMA the hard questions that should have been asked, and been willing to vote against them when she didn’t get satisfactory answers.
This has been an extremely frustrating five years for us as a thorough public engagement and consultation process never took place and our concerns were always brushed aside. In recent times, we have been told (by Councillor Rick Craven) that environmental issues and Trumpeter Swan concerns were settled by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change when it “approved” the permanent breakwall and expanded marina project and that he didn’t want to hear any more about it because those issues are “dead”. The only problem is that isn’t true. In fact, the Ministry put many conditions on the project including an additional study and that a stakeholder committee be formed to include the Trumpeter Swan Coalition.
All of that is now likely moot as the chance the project will proceed as the LPMA intended is nil. As CAO Ridge noted: the risks are too high; the marina has never been identified as a strategic priority for the Town; if the marina is funded, partially through government grants, that leaves less money in the pot for the city to use for other priority infrastructure projects.
We are glad Council has been forced to bring this farce to an end. But why did it take so long? Where was the due diligence? Where were the hard questions about the LPMA’s financial and organizational ability to spearhead such a major project? Why was there no thorough public engagement? And let’s all remember all of this time, effort and money was being spent on planning for a project on land the city of Burlington doesn’t even own.
The Trumpeter Swan Coalition isn’t going anywhere. We look forward to seeing the consultant’s report. We will continue to ask hard questions and put the concerns of residents before the Council. We will keep you informed.
Thanks for your continued interest in this issue and support.
Direct the City Manager, in consultation with the Director of Finance, to take carriage of project planning, and financial analysis including an assessment of the project’s alignment with the Strategic Plan and the relative priority for capital funding; and
Direct the City Manager to retain outside consultant services to complete the following:
• A complete financial assessment of the viability of the marina operations with and without capital upgrades.
• Detailed costing and funding options and a recommended strategy if the assessment indicates that the marina is not viable without a permanent wave break and marina expansion; and
Direct the City Manager to report back on the results of the above analysis including next steps; and
Direct the City Manager to consult with the LPMA and make recommendations to Council of compensating LPMA for costs they have incurred to date in leading this project; and
Direct the City Solicitor and the Director of Parks and Recreation to undertake a review of the Joint Venture Policy (JVP) particularly with respect to the undertaking and funding of capital projects and report back on any recommended changes.
Finance Staff's Report Yanked From
Corporate Services Committee Agenda
July 8 2016 — The Finance staff’s report on the LaSalle Park Marina’s so-called business plan has been pulled from the agenda of Monday July 11th's Community and Corporate Services Committee.
Once again the opportunity for the public to have their say about the proposed permanent break wall and marina expansion at Lasalle Park is being thwarted! 1. See the examples 1. (a) to (g) below.
According to clerk’s department staff, the report was pulled because the city manager was not happy with its contents. According to Councillor Jack Dennison: “The report has been pulled from the Agenda and will come back revised in September”.
Revised? How much lipstick will they need to lard on that pig so it doesn’t look like a pig?
Why don’t we all see for ourselves? I have attached the original Finance report (page 20 to 29) of the original agenda. Please read it and keep this copy. Then we can all compare the honest work of the finance staff, to whatever the “revised” version is that they will be forced to make by their political masters.
In another twist to this story, the Hamilton Spectator is reporting that some secret negotiations are taking place between Hamilton (who owns Lasalle Park), the City of Burlington (who leases it) and the Royal Botanical Gardens. There is talk in the story about a land swap. Who knows what that means as this is all being carried out behind closed doors and away from the prying eyes of the public because who really gives a damn about what the citizens think anyway.
If you are feeling frustrated and powerless at this point, please remember that we are just over two years away from the next election. You have the power of the vote. Take a good hard look at who’s sitting in those Council seats now. Surely there are better potential candidates out there. Start now, find good candidates and support them. Other communities have unseated politicians who show contempt for the people they serve, you can, too.
1.a). Just like public consultation was thwarted when the original design options were presented and the public was told it was not the time to talk about environmental issues as that would be taken care of in the Environmental Assessment.
b). And then the EA was released in the summer with virtually no public notice. So almost no one from the public provided comments. The flawed EA and process led us to request a higher level of assessment from the Minister of the Environment. As the MoE studied that for two years, the Council said they could not discuss any environmental issues with the marina plan because it was with the MoE.
c). When the MoE made their decision, requiring much additional work at additional expense, then Council claimed we couldn’t discuss environmental issues because “that’s all been decided by the Province”, however, that is not the case as the Province was asked to make a decision on one specific issue and there are many more issues to be decided — all in the purview of the City of Burlington.
d). When the Marina Capacity Study came out, a study being used to justify building a permanent break wall and bigger marina, we delegated about it to the Region’s Waterfront Committee and to the Town of Oakville, but could never discuss the many concerns raised by it in Burlington because it was never presented to Burlington’s Council. At the Regional meeting on the Capacity study, we were told that we couldn’t bring up any specific issues related to Lasalle Park because the Capacity study dealt with overall capacity needs in Halton Region. Phase II of the study would examine specific sites.
e). The public never got a chance to discuss the Marina Capacity Study as it related to Lasalle Park because the City of Burlington decided not to go ahead with Phase II of the study.
f). At a recent meeting of the Corporate Service Committee where the Lasalle Park Marina Association was asking for a loan and for the City of Burlington’s support to go looking for taxpayer funded loans/grants of $8 million plus dollars from the Federal and Provincial governments, the chair told delegates they were not to bring up any issues (including environmental issues) outside of the narrow financial request in front of them. One delegation, bringing important new information about how poorly created fish habitats were performing in Hamilton Harbour, was encouraged not to make a delegation because at all (and didn’t) because “there are already so many delegations on the list”. Yet, the Lasalle Park Marina Association and their boating buddies got to range far and wide in their presentations and, through long windy answers to friendly councillor questions, got to talk for multiple times longer than public delegates who were held to strict time limits and asked no follow up questions.
g). At the meeting above, the presentation the Trumpeter Swan Coalition made focused on why no business case had come forward to support the LMPA’s plan despite their heavy lobbying for the project over 4 years. Councillors, too, said they wanted to see the business case and seemed quite unhappy that it was taking Finance time to review it. So, Finance does review the business case and puts it on the Committee’s agenda. It shows, as we have always suspected, the LPMAs financial house is not in order. So we let all of you know and we prepare to delegate . . . . finally some of this fiasco will get out to the public and then and guess what? They pull it from the agenda . . . yet another opportunity for the public to hear about what’s happening with a treasured public park and critical habitat . . . and they vaporize it.
THIS IS A FARCE!
Burlington City Staff Report Destroys Lasalle Park Marina Association's So-Called Business Case
* July 6, 2016 — Burlington's Finance staff's report should put a final nail in the coffin of the Lasalle Park Marina Association's plan to build an expanded marina consisting of 340 permanent slips, plus a 400 m breakwall, destroying the critical habitat at the Lasalle Park harbour. The report found that in contrast to their claims that demand for marina capacity is growing, the LPMA's revenues and occupancy rates have been declining for the past five years. The report found the LPMA's projections for future revenues were inflated, they had left out the financial impact of debt they had already incurred, their budget didn't include costs of ongoing maintenance, that they projected fee increases that would make them the highest priced marina in the area — making it less likely they could raise the revenues they projected, that they were not eleigible for an Infrastructure Ontario grant loan and that if the Region applied on their behalf Halton's citizens would be on the hook for paying it back . . . . and on and on and on. To read the report for yourself, read from Page 20 to Page 29 here:
We are pleased that we raised these issues at Burlington's Corporate Service Committee meeting on April 18 2016 where our presentation focused on why the LPMA hadn't produced a business case despite lobbying for the marina expansion for 4+ years (see news item below). We crunched the numbers on the information we had and we suspected the LPMA didn't have its financial house in order. The taxpayers of Burlington have already supported this group of boaters to the tune of $626,754 over the years according to the report. Over the past couple of years, Council has provided almost $160,000 of taxpayer money, and countless hours of staff time, to help fuel their dream of building an expanded marina in a site that is not only critical wildlife habitat but is completely unsuitable for a development of this scale. It's time Council put an end to this plan, and time citizens demand that they do. With an expected cost of $14 to $18 million, the dreams of these boaters could quickly turn into another pier project nightmare.
* April 18, 2016 — As expected, the members of Burlington’s Community and Corporate Services Committee, which consists of Mayor Goldring and all Council members, voted to provide the Lasalle Park Marina Association with a letter of support to seek $12 million in taxpayer-funded loans and grants from the federal and provincial governments to build the 400 m permanent breakwall and the expanded 340-boat marina with permanent slips.
Council John Taylor gave it his “reluctant” support. The only dissenting vote was from Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward who said that she didn’t believe Council had enough information to make such a decision and that the process was backward since the Council was supporting the proposal without ever having having an open public discussion on the merits of the permanent break wall and expanded permanent slips and having a Council vote on it.
She was absolutely right. Council voted to give their support:
1. Without knowing whether the LPMA is capable of paying back a $4 million dollar loan on top of the $250,000 loan (to be paid back over 10 years!) that Council also authorized on Monday, in a separate agenda item, so the marina could replace finger docks.
2. Without knowing whether the LPMA could afford to fulfill all the other obligations, including further studies ordered by the Minister of the Environment and Climate change;
3. Without knowing if the City would actually be the one that had to apply for a $14 million loan from infrastructure Ontario.
4. Without knowing whether the City would be on the hook to pay back a loan if the LPMA couldn’t — staff said they needed to talk to the city lawyers before answering that question.
5. Without a detailed design study which is the only way the City, LPMA and citizens will have some idea of the real cost of the project that is now being estimated to be $16 — twice as high as first suggested in 2013.
6. Without knowing if a letter of support binds the City to building the project and commits them to the loans and grants the LPMA is seeking — they got two completely different opinions on this from two different staff members.
7. Without having a business case from the LPMA.
8. Without ever giving a full public airing to the Marina Capacity Study.
9. Without ever giving a full public airing to the options presented in the original design study which included floating break walls.
10. Without completing a Master Plan for Lasalle Park.
11. Without engaging park users, neighbours and other Burlington citizens in a meaningful way about the current uses and future plans for the park.
We strongly urge you to watch the broadcast of the CCSC meeting here: http://hosting.captual.com/burlington/1/watch/578.aspx
The Trumpeter Swan Coalition delegation begins at 45:35 but we encourage you to watch it all if you can. Watch LPMA president John Birch dance around financial issues. Watch how the Mayor and Council members helpfully jump in to provide him with answers when he’s fumbling. Listen at 1:56, to hear the confusion and conflicting advice and how Councillor Meed Ward tries to cut through it. The whole thing is really quite a show and if you weren’t already unhappy with the majority of your Council and supportive of our efforts to protect the habitat at Lasalle Park, I think you will be after watching this meeting.
Around 2:04 you can hear the final comments of the committee members and their final vote.
At 2:12, you can hear Council Meed Ward’s very sound reasons for voting against giving the LPMA a letter of support.
The Trumpeter Swan Coalition wishes to thank BurlingtonGreen, Glenda Dodd, Ken Newcombe, Pat Zizian, Mike Jones, the Hamilton Naturalists and everyone else who wrote to their Councillor or to Council about this issue.
* July 29 2015 — The Minister of the Environment, Glen Murray, has turned down a request made by the Trumpeter Swan Coalition, Conservation Halton and a private citizen for a more thorough environmental assessment of the proposed marina expansion in LaSalle Park, Burlington, the over-wintering home of 1/4 of Ontario's Trumpeter Swan population. Now it is up to the Council of the City of Burlington to decide whether to allow the dumping of 10,000 tons of rock into the harbour to create a permanent 400 metre break wall and to build a 340-slip marina. It is very important to let Council know what you think about this issue. Address an email to Mayor and Council at [email protected] The Minister has imposed some conditions on the LaSalle Park Marina Association. All correspondence on this issue can be found by clicking the "Documents and Letters" tab at left on this page.
* The City of Burlington has created a bylaw to banning the feeding of "nuisance" wildlife on city propoerty. Only licensed banders and taggers of Trumpeter Swans are now allowed to provide whole kernel, untreated corn to the Trumpeters for the purpose of luring them so they can be banded and tagged. Under this bylaw, all wildlife on public land are considered nuisance wildlife and cannot be fed.
* Find the final Marina Capacity Study and read our response to the Marina Capacity Study in Key Documents at left.
* Please watch and important video about LaSalle Park's Trumpeter Swans by CBC journalist Dzintars Cers interviewing Liz Benneian at http://youtu.be/BKbLWBN7Ajw
* Schools and community groups, book us for a free Trumpeter Swan presentation. Contact Liz at or call her at 905-562-3819.